Local soccer champions Kitchee face their toughest test in their bid for regional honours when they take on Arema of Indonesia in the AFC Cup round of 16 at Mong Kok Stadium tonight.
After ending the domestic league unbeaten at the weekend, Kitchee have a demanding schedule, facing the Indonesians and then Eastern Salon in the FA Cup final on Sunday.
Arema beat Kitchee 2-0 at the same stage of the tournament two years ago and arrive packing a large foreign legion.
Their attacking duo are Brazilian Alberto da Costa and former Uruguay player Cristian Gonzales, now a naturalised Indonesian international, while midfielder Gustavo Lopez is a veteran of the Argentine Primera Division. Their defence includes Thierry Gathuessi of Cameroon and Victor Igbonefo, a Nigerian-born naturalised Indonesian considered one of the best defenders in the country.
"We have done some analysis on the visitors through video footage and there is no doubt they are a quality side, especially their attacking power," said head coach Chu Chi-kwong. "We will put more emphasis on our defence and try to hold them before launching fast breaks. But still it is not going to be easy because we have relied heavily on ground movement and the recent adverse weather will probably make the pitch very difficult for us."
Fullback Lo Kwan-yee also added: "Although we have the home ground advantage, we will probably start as underdog. We learnt a lesson two years ago of underestimating them and will not make the same mistake."
The good news for Kitchee is the return of reliable centre defender Fernando Recio, who has recovered from a dislocated arm.